Friday, February 29, 2008

Men who kill the women in their lives

I jumped on the bus looking forward to the journey. The other day I had splashed out on a magazine about Gib in the war, and I figured this would distract me for three hours or so.

But there was a free Spanish paper on the bus so I picked that up and started reading. Actually I did the Sudoku first, and then I started reading from the back.

I like Spanish papers because they aren't particularly tacky. And you get an awful lot of reading for a euro. Well, that's if you pay for them you do.

One of the headlines caught my eye.

"Tres mujeres fallecen asesinadas a manos de sus parejas o ex cónyuges"

- literally - three women die assassinated at the hands of their partners or ex-spouses.

This is three women killed in one day. The women came from Madrid, Cullera (Valencia province) and Valladolid. The paper described it as the most tragic day in Spain for deaths caused by macho violence. Because as well as these three, there was another death in El Puerto de Santa María in Cadiz province - because it was an Andalucían paper, this last death got a separate story of its own. So that brings the horrific total to four.

Death 1
A 22-year-old Bolivian woman was stabbed by her boyfriend who she was living with. The body was found shortly before 4am and a little while afterwards the emergency services received a call about a 28-year-old Bolivian man who had tried to kill himself. He confessed to the police and told them where he had put the body and the weapon. He had no record of violence or any previous convictions.

Death 2
This took place in the middle of the afternoon when a 44-year-old woman was shot by her ex-partner while she was with some friends on a terrace in Cullera. The 54-year-old man was detained moments later, and he had previously received two orders to remain away from her.

Death 3
Shortly before 7pm, a 54-year-old woman was killed, presumably by her ex-husband, who shot her three times. They had been separated for two and a half years after being married for twenty years. The woman used to visit the neighbourhood to see her friends, and her ex-husband, who had no restraining order against him, was able to take advantage of this to kill her. Shortly after the shots, there was a fire in the place where the shots had been come from. When the firefighters got into the house, they found the corpse of the ex-husband who had shot himself with the shotgun.

Death 4
A 49-year-old woman was killed by her husband while she was in a shop shortly before 4pm. The 56-year-old man was detained a few minutes later by the Police Nacional. The couple had been in the process of separating, and both of them had made formal complaints about each other.

These four deaths bring the total of men who have killed their partners to 17 (or 16 or 18 depending on what source you read) this year. The death in El Puerto is the second one in Andalucía this year. Last year, more than 70 women were killed by their partners or ex-partners.

It's not just a statistic either. Last year a young woman in her early twenties had moved from our village to the local market town. Her partner killed her. Everyone Spanish in the village knew the woman and her family.

Whatever anyone's opinion of Zapatero he has certainly brought domestic violence to the forefront of national politics. Under Franco, domestic violence was not a crime. Since figures started being kept in recent years they show that on average, at least one woman a week is killed by their partner or ex-partner. A new law against domestic violence was one of the first to make it onto the statute books when Zapatero and the Socialists were elected four years ago.

Sadly some men still seem to think a relationship with a woman brings with it some kind of ownership privilege. It doesn't. You have no more rights over a woman that you live with than you do over a man in the street. A woman is not a possession or a chattel. And anyone who endorses or encourages any type of macho culture or behaviour should realise that for many women - it ends in death.

Main source: Granada Hoy

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sunday stroll

I thought a Sunday evening stroll was called for.

The two nearest and nicest walks are either up to the Botanical Gardens, or down to the waterfront.

I thought it was a waterfront day. So down through Ragged Staff gates and over to Queensway marina.

On the one side I can see all the big commercial ships that come in for repair work and refits, and on the other is the plush marina.

Here are a few marina shots.

The marina, looking back towards the Rock

The Anna Christina, (also in the previous shot)

The £2m+ semis - with their own private mooring included though

And on the way home, a few flowers.


Succulent garden



Tuesday, February 19, 2008

But I knew her well enough by now to see inside her head.....

I am not a lover of pop music and I know very little about it. (Says the woman who frequently types to the accompaniment of Spanish music.....)

Anyway. I went through the usual teenage phase of adulation for a couple of bands, but didn't buy a lot of LPs. I bought a few singles of records that I particularly liked to excess, and would play them endlessly. By that I mean I would play the same record again and again for hours.

As I grew older I did buy classical music. So I have far more Beethoven, Mahler, Rachmaninov, than I do Beatles, Moody Blues, Rolling Stones.

My collection of singles is pretty eclectic though. One of the ones I bought was by Albert Hammond. The Free Electric Band.

I never really listen to the lyrics of songs because 1) I buy the records because I like the music and 2) I usually can't distinguish the words.

Oddly enough I could actually work out all the words on The Free Electric Band. I thought he sang quite clearly for an American. He had to be American because he sang about Berkeley. But when we bought our flat in Gib, I was more than surprised to find out Albert Hammond is from there. (See, there is a connection with this blog).

OK, technically speaking, he was born in London. His family comes from Gibraltar and like many families, women and children were evacuated during the Second World War, and Albert was born during this evacuation period in 1944. A few months later the family moved back to Gib, so it seems pretty fair to me to say that he is a Gib boy.

I forgot about this until we were sitting chatting in a bar one day. There was the manager and her husband, plus a young lad who plays in a band in Gib. I've not heard him sing, but Partner has and tells me he is very good. So the conversation turned to music.

"Who's that pop star who comes from Gib?" we said. "The one with the one-hit wonder," we added for confirmation. And expected the young Gibraltarian musician to answer.

"Albert Hammond," said the manager's husband.

"But he's no one-hit wonder. Do you know how many songs he has written and for who?"

He had this sort-of "you-really-don't-know-what-you-are-talking-about-do-you" look on his face. But politely didn't say it.

Er, no. Nor did I know Albert Hammond had a hit with It never rains in Southern California. Hell, if it had California in the title it had to be the Beach Boys. Told you I knew nothing about pop. But thanks, Fred. You were right. I blame Top of the Pops 2 for saying Albert Hammond was a one-hit wonder with The Free Electric Band (I'm sure they said it). I guess it depends how you define one-hit wonders, and which country you are looking at it from.

So I had a little lookie on the good old Tinties. Not only has this guy had a huge career in the English-singing world - he has done it in Spanish too. Well, he would do, wouldn't he, coming from Gib. Sorry Albert, didn't intend to minimise your achievements. They are mega. Still at least, hopefully, I've contributed a few pennies to your royalties. Not only did I buy The Free Electric Band, I also bought The Fortunes singing Freedom Come, Freedom Go, which he wrote.

Back to blogs and the title of this. Now that we've cleared up a bit of info about Albert Hammond, I do like the lyrics of The Free Electric Band. And I think this line is appropriate to blogging.

"But I knew her well enough by now to see inside her head...."

We all give out a lot of information when we blog. Some people write a lot more personally in public than I can. To be honest I can't even write much personal stuff on my private blog. I struggle to do it. So I do admire people who can write about their feelings, opinions and emotions in public. I can't.

So, why, why, why, would I invite someone onto my private blog who seriously enjoys taking the piss out of me? About whom I know very little, apart from what I have gleaned on a forum. OK, You can find out a fair bit about people from a forum, but it's hardly open stuff like a blog.

And to the person who asked very politely for an invitation to my secret blog - it's on hold. Why do you want to see inside my head? I don't get anywhere near yours. You need to give a bit more out - and I know you won't.

Source: The official Albert Hammond website

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The relief postie.......and chickens

Remember the postie who got all the blame for the increase in the local property tax? Well, she is off for a few months to have an operation so we are saddled with a relief postie.

Whenever we get relief posties, the mail always gets delivered. Just not the right mail to the right house. So shortly after the mail has arrived all the neighbours go walkabout to deliver the post to the right people.

We have two main doors, one on each street - we live on a corner plot. The postbox is by the front gate. The number of the house is painted on the wall by the front door.

There is no number by the side street door, nor is there a postbox. So the relief postie promptly stuck some mail between the railings on the outside of the door. Very clever sweetheart. Irritated Partner retrieved the mail and then set about delivering it to the correct address. (Naturally it wasn't for us).

He collared Relief Postie next time she was on her rounds and pointed out that we had a postbox on the main street and that our address is not for the side street anyway. She wasn't happy with this. Partly because she hadn't realised it was all our property. She decided to have a go at us about the number.

"There's no number here," she said.

Partner pointed it out to her on the house wall, which was perfectly visible from where they were standing.

"You need to change it," she said. "There are other houses with the same number in this street so you should change yours."

Big mistake.

"I'm not changing my number just for you. This house was built before the others, it was the first house in the street with this number and it has always had this number."

José next door chimed in with his support, saying that all the others were the ones who should be changing not us.

"It's been perfectly all right for other posties, and you're only going to be here for a few months," added Partner.

"And if you have any problems I'll go and speak to your boss."

"You don't know where he is," she said. Childishly and stupidly.

"Yes I do. He is in the office up there at the top of the village. Now largate."

Largate is one of Partner's favourite words when he is annoyed. It is like "Get out of it." Of course like all Spanish words, though, the more venom and vitriol you say it with, the more offensive it becomes. She got the message and stormed off down the street.

On the next encounter she decided we should be putting our name on the mailbox. Why? There wasn't even a mailbox here when we bought the house. The mail invariably got thrown over the gate onto the steps.

"I'm not putting my name on there. Any silly idiot could denuncio me then," said Partner.

A denuncio is when someone reports you for something, say, like having animals on a property without finca rights. Or illegally extending your house. I hasten to add that we do have finca papers and we haven't extended the house. But that doesn't mean someone wouldn't try just for the grief. They can't do it without your name though.

"You don't need the name, you know what the number is," continued Partner. "We're the only two English people in this street so it's hardly difficult."

"Largate." Again. And she stormed off down the street.

Jose decided to have a chat about it after she'd gone.

"Why don't you put your name on?" he asked, somewhat naively.

He got a blasting from Partner as well.

"You never had a post-box until last year, and you've only had the names on for a few months. What are you talking about?" snapped Partner.

"That's right," said Adelina. "You're talking a load of rubbish Jose. We didn't have a postbox for ages. Silly old fool."

Jose went grumbling off inside.

Partner came in to rant at me. Then he consoled himself with the thought that she would have an even harder time if she started arguing with me.

I looked at him.

"I'll tell her I don't speak Spanish."

Las dueñas

Anyway onto the chickens. The ones who have only laid a couple of times in the last six months. After all, they are more than four years old.

"Knock 'em on the head," says Jose and various other Spanish neighbours who can't understand why anyone would keep chickens that don't lay.

"If you don't want to eat them, give them to the dog."

Partner is doing the feeding at the moment. They get a permanent supply of corn, and some greens every day.

He has normally just put the greens in their run without going into their huge shed. So when he went in he was more than a little surprised to find SIX eggs. Five carefully piled up together - amazing they hadn't broken any - and one on its own.

Ok, there are only four here because I had already started cooking two of them


Eggs stuffed with fresh herbs and capers

I adapted this from an Italian recipe which used pesto. I rarely have any pesto in (nor am I motivated to make it fresh) but I usually have plenty of fresh basil.

Hard boil eggs. Shell, split in half and take out yolks. Mash yolks with some drops of ollive oil, enough to be a smooth paste, but not too much that they are runny or of a mayo consistency.

Add a pinch of salt, some crushed chopped garlic, a couple of teaspoons (or more) of chopped capers, and some chopped parsley and chopped basil.

Fill egg whites with mixture and sprinkle with paprika or cayenne. YUM.

Stuffed eggs

If you are more organised than me and do have jars of pesto, then the original recipe by Paola Gavin is:

6 hard-boiled eggs
3 tablespoons pesto
3 tablespoons mayo
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon capers

Mash the yolks. Blend in the pesto, mayo and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with the capers.

Cock of the roost

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Sunday drive

Two weeks ago we set off for a drive and got no further than the river bed just down the street. More info click here for those of you who haven't read it on Just Land Rovers.

Anyway, today we had a proper trip. Into the hills.

In our search for the perfect finca with idyllic olive groves and almond trees we have explored the hills behind us more than once.

We went to Riogordo a couple of times. Beautiful place, with lots of rolling olive groves. We liked it but the second time we went we realised it was miles away from anywhere. And it seemed a bit chilly.

Then we discovered Canillas de Aceituno. It is only about 25 km from the coast, but very nice and high. It has beautiful views, and a lovely feel about it. From Canillas you can go walking in the hills, but it is sheltered and faces south. It has never been cold in Canillas when we have been, even in winter, although it is always a few degrees cooler than where we live on the coast. We thought this might be nice too. Not that we could find any reasonable properties that just happened to be for sale.

We still like to go up there. And after my embarrassing vertigo attack on Christmas Day I thought it was time I got my head around heights again. So onwards and upwards we went to Canillas today.

At 649m above sea level it nestles in the foothills of the Sierra de Tejeda, and is one of the starting points to climb the mighty Maroma. Technically Maroma is partly in Granada and partly in Málaga province, but it is known as the highest mountain in Málaga. Er, no, we didn't climb Maroma today (2,065m).

The pueblo under the protection of the sierra

Canillas has a long and colourful history going back to pre-historic times. But like everywhere else in La Axarquía, the most influential civilisation was that of the Muslim kingdom, when it was part of Al-Andalus. The pueblo's prosperity - and apparently its name - dates from this period when it was a centre for the Moorish silk industry. (The Arabic word Azeytuni refers to silk).

This is very confusing to idiots like me who thought the name - Aceituno - referred to the countless olive trees around there, especially as there is a local olive oil factory. (The Spanish for olive is aceituna. However, one source I consulted seems to think that the name is derived from the arabic word for olive - az-zaytun). The factory was doing a roaring trade today, and we couldn't be bothered to join the huge queue.

Olive trees right in the village

La Axarquía is not very touristy (Goody). Apart from the coastal resorts, there really isn't much development here but there are five tourist routes that you can drive to get to know most of the region. Canillas is the start of the Ruta Mudéjar - the route of the Moorish architecture. Either side of the main street, the town still has the basic lay-out dating from the Muslim old town.

The church was built in Gothic-Mudéjar style in the C16 on the site of the old mosque, and then reformed in the nineteenth century.

The church of Our Lady of the Rosary

Flower-filled street in the old town

One of the few Arabic remains - an old well

Incidentally this property has been for sale for years, but obviously no-one fancies an old Arab well in their house.

In the era of Muslim rule there was also a castle, but now all that remains is a square of the same name on the site.

Plaza de Castillo

A corner of the Plaza de Castillo

After the reconquest, its history included the establishment of a community of franciscan monks in the seventeenth century, a period of local banditry in the 1840s, years of hunger and a cholera epidemic from 1865-1878, followed by the commercial production of timber and the sale of ice from the mountains behind.

In the 20th century, the pueblo took a republican stance. In 1911, a group of republican workers declared a republic - resulting in a number of deaths and injuries (see New York times here). With the start of the Civil War in Spain, Canillas remained in the republican zone, although it was later occupied by Spanish Nationalist and Italian fascist troops.

The area supported the Spanish Maquis, who continued to oppose the Franco dictatorship, but by the 1960s many families were emigrating to escape from the political regime and to seek a better life.

It currently has a population of 2,336 (2007), less than half the number of inhabitants when the republic was declared in 1911. Of the population now, 364 are foreigners - with the main nationality being British. In 2006, there were 441 telephone lines, and only five ADSL lines.

People here are not rich though, with the average household income only up to 7,200€. Although this is an old figure (2003), it is unlikely to have gone up hugely. Agriculture still features in the economy of the area, with the main crops being tomatoes, avocados, and olives. Now, like elsewhere in Andalucía, the main industry in the area is in construction. But for how much longer, given the current slow-down in the building boom?

Anyway, enough of the history and geography lessons. Here are some more pictures of modern-day Canillas.

Approaching the centre of the pueblo on Avenida Andalucía

What is now Bar Sociedad was the venue for the creation of the Society of Friends of the Pueblo and of Culture, between 1912 and 1924.

Plaza de la Constitución -
even the main square is not immune from new-build

Picking acelgas for lunch

Enjoying the sun - the older ones

Enjoying the sun - the younger ones

Some of the last remaining plots of ground in the village - but for how long?

The houses on the right are new, and the big promotional sign for Pueblo Andaluz doesn't bode well.

Almond trees on the slopes outside the village

Sources: Ayuntamiento de Canillas de Aceituno, El Portal de la Axarquía, Instituto de Estadística de Andalucía, New York Times

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Royal Gun Salute - Gibraltar - 6 Feb 2008

I wouldn't have known but today is the 56th anniversary of the accession to the throne of Queen Elizabeth II.

The reason I found out was because I invariably get my hands on an excellent monthly Calendar of Events published by the Gibraltar Tourist Board.

At noon, there was going to be a 21-gun salute fired from the Naval Base. To be accurate, according to the Gib media, Her Majesty's Naval Base. How cool to have your own naval base. I would like that.

Anyway, I duly got myself a pass and wandered down to Liz's naval base. The naval base has some interesting industrial architecture and I so wanted to take some pix.

I decided it wasn't the best idea. I didn't fancy being carted off by the police and saying good-bye to my short-lived Gib residency. I did ask if I would be able to take pix of the guns. The police officer looked horrified.

When I got to the gun area, there was a guy with a HUGE Nikon. He hadn't asked anyone if he could take pix. Apart from asking his mate who he had come with. Who was busy inside networking and just happened to be one of the invited guests who got a front-row seat.

I decided to collar one of the nice men in uniform. They looked surprised I was even asking. "Of course," said one of them. And then I was dismissed.

I really need a proper video camera. I caught a tiny bit on the digicam - and the batteries promptly started flashing.

So here are my pix.

From left to right, guns 4, 3, 2 and 1. Guns 2, 3, and 4 each fired five rounds. Gun one fired 6 rounds.

The salute was fired by the Headquarter Company (Thomson's Battery) of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment and the Inspecting Officer for the salute was the Mayor of Gibraltar, the Hon Clive Beltran.

The Royal Gibraltar Regiment marches on to take up position

Waiting for the inspection

The inspection by the Hon Clive Beltran

Ready to load

Gun 4 waiting orders

Firing gun 4

Gun 4

Guns 2 and 1

The Royal Gibraltar Regiment marches off

One remaining soldier waits to be relieved

The same soldier, standing in front of number 2 gun, complete with debris

A few pix from this evening.

The Tower where we stood to view the salute. I took this from across the water (obviously not in the dockyard any more - I had to hand in my pass) at the marina.

The Tower building in the Naval Base

To get a decent shot I had to stand on the wall of a flower bed, and then noticed this beautiful hibiscus.


Finally, a capstan winch and succulent garden bed which had just been tidied up today with new mulch. It was en route to the marina and I thought it was an interesting finish to today's heritage post.

The inscription says that the capstan winch was salvaged from HM Naval Dockyard by members of the Ship's Company of the Royal Naval Reserve Unit, HMS Calpe. It commemorates the units' existence in Gib from 1965-1993.

Capstan winch and garden

Monday, February 04, 2008

Musings ...... and some flowers

I packed my trusty overnight bag as usual and wandered down to the bus stop to go to Málaga.

The main road buses are coach-type buses, that are used for long distance journeys, with luggage stored underneath. Overall, I think the drivers are pretty good, and usually pleasant. What never fails to fascinate me is their amazing accuracy. It obviously alleviates the boredom of being a bus driver, but whenever they pull up to the bus stop, they stop exactly at your feet. It is no good jumping back or moving up and down because that spoils the game. If you stay on the spot where they have seen you, they will pull in, and the door will be immediately in front of you. And I mean immediately. When the door opens your first step is right onto the bus. I think that is sooo clever, and that's why I don't move out of the way now like a frightened chicken.

The bus fare is 1.90€. It tends to go up at the beginning of the year though so I was expecting to pay extra. I had a 2€ coin ready.

It had gone up one centimo to 1.91€. I ask you. It's not even worth it. The bus driver didn't think so either and gave me ten cents change.

Contrast this with the local service from the village into town, where the bus fare was somewhere around 80 or 90 cents and suddenly went up to a whopping 1.30€ (ie at least 50%). Not only that, they cut the buses back. Now, of course, as the buses run less frequently and cost more money, they are being used less. For a couple of oldies who live solely out of a pension that is a big rise. One of our younger neighbours was saying that less and less people were using the local bus service. That will give the council a great opportunity to axe it completely. I can always walk down to the main road and get the (cheaper) highway bus service. Or I can walk or cycle into town. But not everyone has that choice.

I should have mentioned that the increase in local fares co-incided with the inauguration of the new tram service. The one that is vastly over-budget. They are also now constructing phase two. More money needed. Where does the tram service run? Between the county town and its seaside resort. Does my village benefit from the tram? No. I think trams are A Good Idea. But not at the expense of local services to villages. I am not even particularly cynical about the local council.

Back to my trip. In Málaga I asked for a ticket to La Linea. Expecting another price increase. This was equally silly. Another centimo, from 10.30€ to 10.31€. How utterly bizarre.

I sat aimlessly on the bus. (I am normally aimless anyway, but even more so on buses). It wasn't busy. That was good. It had been cloudy when I set off - also good as that meant I wasn't standing at the bus stop in hot sun - but once past Marbella it was glorious weather so I dozed a bit in the nice warm sun through the glass. Oh, I should say though, not a good idea to sit on the seat in front of the emergency door as you get a whacking great draught. Plugged it with jacket and bag.

Arrived in GibFlat. Picked up more post than we have had in total since we have been there, including a reminder - plus penalties - for rates. Er, we've never had those bills. Bah! There were a couple of cards for Pippadog though so that cheered me up.

I ordered a pizza. It was vile. I usually pick off the cheese and give it to the dog. The base was soft. That didn't leave much. The chillies were nice, but there weren't enough of them and I had forgotten to bring some from the finca.

The next day I hot-footed it down to the veg shop and the supermarket. Things looked up. I sorted the rates out. Even the washing machine that seemed to be sulking at me AGAIN has managed to finish its cycle (must have been an air lock).

So city life in the flat is cool again. But my two lives are so different and it actually takes a while to adjust again.

Anyway the other day on the finca I took some flower pix of our winter? spring? flowers. I love the snowdrops and crocuses I use to have in the UK but it's also nice to have bougainvillea, jasmine, plumbago, and carnations flowering - outside. Oh, and stocks and strawberries too.

Bougainvillea. One of my favourite exotic flowers.
I failed to grow it inside in the UK, and I don't seem to have
much more success here in Spain..

The last of the summer jasmine. It always coincides with
the start of the short-flowering winter jasmine

Winter jasmine. Waiting for the summer jasmine to finish
before it flowers

The last of the plumbago, still flowering in winter

Carnation - I have finally learnt how to propagate these

Stocks, they used to be double, now reverted to single

Strawberry flowers, and tiny strawbs forming